EP 19 - Manny Coats - How to Add Value to Your Products with
| Awesomers Origin - We'll talk to an Awesomer about where they came from, the triumphs and tribulations they have faced and how they are doing today. An Awesomer Origin story is the chance to hear the backstory about the journey our guest took on their road to become awesomer. These stories are incredibly varied and the takeaway is that awesomers come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, creeds, colors and every other variation possible. On your awesomer road you will face adversity. That’s just part of life. The question as always is how YOU choose to deal with it.|
Manny Coats is the Co-Founder of Freedom Ticket and CEO and Founder of Helium 10 – a leading software company for Amazon sellers. He is also the Host of the AM/PM Podcast – a free resource for learning everything about private labeling on Amazon. He’s been involved in the online marketing industry since the late 1990s. Manny is a regular speaker at major Amazon conferences and has created one of the largest active community of Amazon sellers with over 45,000 members.
On this episode, Steve Simonson and his guest Manny Coats discuss the main issues that entrepreneurs face. Manny Coats, the host of the AM/PM Podcast, CEO and Founder of Helium 10, and co-founder of the Freedom Ticket, shares his personal and professional background, visions and insights on E-commerce and entrepreneurship. Here are more key points discussed in this episode:
Manny’s origin story and his first experience as an entrepreneur.
How to add value to your products.
The importance of building communities and teams towards meaningful collaboration and more.
To get firsthand insights and invaluable advice on entrepreneurship, stay tuned to this episode.
Welcome to the Awesomers.com podcast. If you love to learn and if you're motivated to expand your mind and heck if you desire to break through those traditional paradigms and find your own version of success, you are in the right place. Awesomers around the world are on a journey to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. We believe in paying it forward and we fundamentally try to live up to the great Zig Ziglar quote where he said, "You can have everything in your life you want if you help enough other people get what they want." It doesn't matter where you came from. It only matters where you're going. My name is Steve Simonson and I hope that you will join me on this Awesomer journey.
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1:17 (Steve introduces his guest, Manny Coats.)
Steve: This is episode 19 of the Awesomers podcast and for those of you keeping score at home you can go to the Awesomers.com/19 webpage and you will find all the relevant show notes and links and things that we talk about in this episode including all the details about our special guest and that special guest today is none other than Manny Coats, my friend, and he is also the co-founder of the Freedom Ticket and CEO, and founder of the Helium 10 software program. Now, Helium 10 is a leading software company for Amazon sellers that provides a host of services and functions that really can help Amazon businesses. He is also the host of his own podcast known as the AM/PM Podcast which is a free resource for learning about everything related to the private label industry as a released is selling on Amazon in particular. I highly recommend if you sell on Amazon and you are thinking about selling on Amazon or any of the above, definitely go subscribe to the AM/PM Podcast right now. He has been involved in the online marketing industry since the late 90s, and he is a regular speaker at major Amazon conferences. He has also created one of the largest active communities of Amazon sellers with over 45,000 members. And again we will have that links to all of these things in the show notes. All you have to do is go to Awesomers.com/19.
Everybody back, Awesomers.com Steve Simonson here and joined today by a special guest Manny Coats. Manny, how are you?
Manny: I am excellent! How are you doing?
Steve: I know you are! I am well as this is an actually a sunny day in Seattle which is a nice thing. It looks like it's sunny behind you in LA there, yes?
Manny: Yes! We are not in LA, we are in Orange County. We are close, we are on our way. I know, it's beautiful out here. In about an hour you won't be able to see me because the sun will be blasting through these shades.
Steve: Wow! That must be both beautiful and also very warm in that office.
Manny: Yes, right now it's ok. It's going to get hot real soon.
Steve: All right! Well, listen, we're going to dive in here. And as we like to do, just tell us kind of where you live today, and we may have gotten a spoiler alert they're on the OC, but where do you live today and kind of what do you do in general terms? And I know you have so many businesses and so many things, but feel free to kind of take us through that gauntlet, if you will.
3:36 (Manny introduces himself and gives a short brief of his businesses.)
Manny: Yes! So, I live here in Southern California. I am the CEO and founder of Helium 10. I am the host of the AM/PM Podcast. We have multiple businesses related to the Amazon space. So, we have a photography company, we have a seller trademarks company. You have been to one of our live Mastermind events. We had one in Hawaii, we do that every year for advance sellers, so we have conferences for that. I'm a co-founder of one of the training systems out there for Amazon sellers. So, I dabble in a lot of things. And I just, you know, when I want to try something else, I just take a little bit of time off my sleep and add it over here, and that's how I do it.
Steve: I was going to say you're definitely burning a candle on the multiple sides there. Definitely, Manny is one of the busiest Awesomers I know, but that the fact is he continues to execute a high level. The Illuminati Mastermind, Helium 10 - so many of these examples just continue to be very-very excellent and well-received. And I think maybe the fundamental observation I have is that they all add value, they actually are worth something.
Manny: Absolutely! And, you know, I think a big part of all of this is one of the things I wanted you to continue to be able to expand the business is to create a community. You are really good at that, right? So, we created our FB high rollers group 45,000 Amazon sellers. So, if I need a support of people, if I have questions, if I want to bounce ideas or start something I already have a big following, a big group, a big community. It's awesome. I love that kind of stuff.
Steve: Relationships and communities they really do matter especially for entrepreneurs and we often find ourselves isolated alone. I know you work in probably an office with a series of guys but so many folks are out there kind of lone ranger and in the basement and that could be a very lonely proposition so it's nice to have those communities that fall back on.
Manny: Absolutely, yes.
Steve: Okay, so just before we dive into kind of your very origins, the roots of Manny Coats, and everybody is going to want to tune into this, we are going to take a quick break and talk to our sponsors and find out what's cool about them.
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Steve: Okay, here we are! We are back again Awesomers.com, Manny Coats. And he's going to tell us all the secrets that we need to know about how to be cool like him. And we are going to start with the very beginnings, Manny. Where were you born?
Manny: I was born in Spain. My dad is or was in the Air Force, my mom was there in Madrid. They met, and I was born on an air force base there near Madrid.
Steve: How about that?
Manny: I know!
Steve: That's a very good one. So, I met you probably moved around quite a bit then, huh?
Manny: Well, I was there not that much honestly I was there until about 10 years of age and then we moved out to California to an Air Force Base out here, jumped around a couple Air Force bases and then I've been in Southern California since I was just starting high school about 13 years of age or so, it is when I moved and I've been here pretty much ever since, I haven't left California.
Steve: Nice, okay. And so, you alluded to the fact that your father's in the military. In terms of your parents’ careers, did the father stay in the military or how about your mother?
Manny: You know, my mom was a stay-at-home mom, she took care of us and, you know, instilled all the values in us, I guess, right. My dad would try to take some of us away. He was kind of like a mountain man crazy, [imitating father's voice] “Let's go out, let's do all this crazy stuff”. [Normal voice] So, it was a good dynamic. He stayed in the military, after that when he retired he did aerospace, so he worked for Lockheed Martin, some of those companies up in the high desert, and then finally retired. And that's about when I had started my business and did my own thing.
Steve: I love it. How about any siblings?
Manny: I have a brother. I have a younger brother, his name's Mike. He actually works here in the office with us. He basically now handles about 99% of my Amazon business that I started, you know, two and a half years ago. He handles that now. So, he actually probably knows more about the Amazon side of stuff than I do, you know. So, yes, he's awesome.
Steve: Well it's remarkable and this is again a lesson for Awesomers out there, you know. Just in two and a half years, you know, for Manny coming into this industry and observing an opportunity he was able to kind of put something together and then put a bunch of other pieces around that puzzle. That's, boy, that is somebody who really could see the big picture. That's amazing!
Manny: Yes. I think so, I agree.
Steve: Well, as long as we're keeping on praise to Manny he's going to get on board [laughing].
9:00 (Manny shares his vision of entrepreneurship.)
Manny: It's cool, though. I think a lot of entrepreneurs are like this. I have, you know, I hear people always say 'oh, anybody can do anything they want'. I don't see that to be the case when it comes to entrepreneurship. I have a lot of friends, this is just my observation, who are like 'man, I want to do what you're doing'. And I'm like 'all you have to do is work 12 hours a day seven days a week for the first amount of, you know, for the first year, let's say you really want to do that?' And they're like 'no, that's crazy talk'. Well, then that's probably not for you, you know because it's not always easy. Some people can do it in 20 hours a week. But it takes dedication if you really want to go at it like, I guess, like I do or like a lot of people do.
Steve: Well this is the thing. I definitely agree that they, you know, the concept of 'hey, anybody can do anything' they set, their mind to fine, whatever, leave that to the philosophers. But the reality is if you're going to be an entrepreneur, you're going to have to work and you're going to have to work hard and you're going to have to solve problems day in and day out. That's kind of our job, don't you think?
Manny: I do. And it never, there's not a defining moment of when your day starts and stops, you know. You think 'okay, I'm going to stop at five o'clock'. But if there's a fire, if you there's a problem with your business and it's 9 p.m. or it's 11 p.m. and it's crushing your business you're on it, right? If it's somebody else's, you know, if you're an employee somewhere, you don't care, like “I'll take care of that at 9:00 in the morning when I get there”. It never ends and if you're doing Amazon, I didn't know this when I was doing it, but you're working your whole day shift and then you're coming on at like 9 o'clock at night to work with the, you know, your sources and your factories in China. So, then you're doing another 4 or 5 hours at midnight, that kind of thing so it's crazy, yes.
Steve: It is! It definitely is a 24-hour day as it turns out. After my days to begin with Europe in the very early morning they pursued the United States and then India and China at night, and a sleep is fitted in there at times.
10:43 (Manny and Steve discuss the importance of building a system.)
Manny: Absolutely. And if you do it right though hopefully, yes, you do the massive hours in the beginning, but as you build teams and you get, you know, things in place, then you can start to take off. You are the boss it’s like 'all right, things are running okay, I'm going to do my thing’, and you can cut things way back
Steve: Yes, for sure. And ultimately, that's the key for me, you know, once you put systems in place and then you have the team to run those systems. And, by the way, Helium 10 has a lot of very-very good systems built in there. Kudos to you guys. It was that just something you guys built for yourself, and then it evolved into what it is today?
11:14 (Manny talks about Helium 10.)
Manny: Yes. So, Helium 10, for those that aren't familiar with what it is, they're tools for Amazon sellers. So, we have, when I started in Amazon about two and a half years ago, December of 2015 is when I got into it. There weren't that many tools out there. Believe it or not, now there's a ton of tools. But, the tools that were out there had deficiencies. Or they just didn't do what I wanted. And I was coming from the mobile app side of the business. And I'm like ‘Well, I have teams. I could create whatever I want. So, let's start creating some stuff’. And I was just giving it out for free. I started my podcast at the same time. And, I was talking about what I was doing. People were like ‘how the heck are you doing that?’, and I’m like ‘oh, I got this tool’. So, I gave it up for free. First few, I think, the first couple tools what were absolutely free. And eventually, I kept adding more and more things and cost went up. And I'm like ‘well, maybe I should start charging for this’, and that's how Helium 10 was born.
Steve: Nice, I love that.
Manny: And, so, we got now 20 some-odd tools. And I wanted a place, the whole idea for our tool set was you don't have to go over here and over here and over here with all these different tools to do what you want, what you need for a business, you can go to one place and get it, at least if you're in the Amazon space like we are, and you can get everything done in one place for one small price per month.
Steve: It's very-very smart. Systemization, especially, where the center core is very-very important. So how about the university? Did you go to university?
Manny: I did not. No. It was super important back when I was about to go and nowadays it seems like a lot of people aren't putting that much emphasis in it, especially entrepreneurs. But, yes, I was about, I was wanting to go, and at the same time. Right, when they happened I got a pretty sweet deal at a finance company, that I should never have gotten the job for. I was just way under-qualified for. But I did really well on all the tests they gave me. I got hired. I'm like ‘man, I'm making more money doing this than I would when I graduated high school, I am sorry college or my friends are going to be making’.
Steve: Right. When you are doing the math on. I could put four years and whatever debt or expense in and still make less money potentially.
Manny: Yes. I knew what my friends were going to be making when they came out for whatever job they were going to be doing, right. And then I was just like ‘well, you know, I'm making that right now. I don't have to put in the time’. But the trickery and the whole thing was at the company, I did still want to go to college even with all that, they said ‘all right, in order to move up through the company, to become a VP type level player at the company, you're going to need a college degree’. And they were willing to pay for my college education, it was an incentive they had. But what I didn't know is they work you to death. They put you on salary, and then they work you 80 hours a week. You have no time for school or studying or anything like that, so it never happened.
Steve: It's a common tactic in the finance business in particular.
Manny: Oh really?
Steve: They work you right to the bone. So, I find that very interesting. By the way, for the Awesomers listening at home here listen to a couple college dropouts. I went for one semester and was too poor and dropped out. And that's the story for another day. But the fact is you can still accomplish something even without a specific certificate. How about, so after that first job was that your last kind of proper w-2 job? Did you get in the entrepreneur business after that or did you have another job after that?
14:26 (Manny talks about his experience with the finance company he worked for in the beginning and the turning point for him.)
Manny: Yes, you know, the finance the backstory to it, if you've got two minutes I'll tell you how it all happened. I was in the lending industry, and I loved it, you know. I started when I was 19 years old, and I was the only, it was a 9,000-person company, and I was the only one at the company that didn't have a college degree. So, you had to have a college degree to get this job, and then I slipped through like that, I told you I shouldn't got that job. They messed up. So, they hired me, I did really well, I promoted through management. I got my own branch essentially. And the industry changed, and there was just a recession. Everything went ahead to crap essentially and we went from lending to collecting. So, all of these loans all these things that we had out there. The company goes like ‘you guys have to start going out and either start getting payments or repossess, you got take people's cars, you got to take anything’ - anything that they were financing we had to take. So, we would get these big u-haul trucks, and it would just be on a specific day like you know the 15th of the month we'd go out, right, and we'd have, you know, 20 places we'd go to 20 houses start repossessing. And we went to this one house out in the middle of nowhere, small little house, and knocked on the door. And a father was there, you know, really nice guy. He was holding the hand of his daughter or a small girl, and he was just the nicest guy ever, saying ‘you know, I was in the aerospace industry, and I lost my job, I can't find anything’. And I knew because my dad was kind of in that space, too. And we're like ‘if you can't pay for this, you're like three-four months behind, we've got to take the stuff’. So, we started going in the house. And his loan was secured on the furniture that he had financed. And we took a few things out and the last thing we were taking out was a couch and it was one of those pullout bed type couches. And as we were taking it out, me and my assistant manager, the little daughter looks up at her dad and says ‘daddy, you know, where are they taking my bed?’ And at that point, my heart just crushed. That was like ‘you know what?’ That was the defining one. That was when I decided I'm done with this job. I have already known kind of what I wanted to do as an entrepreneur, and that was the last day I put in my notice the next morning and I moved on.
Steve: Wow! What a tumultuous time that was. But to see it kind of firsthand and the real consequence of, you know, the guy, he would have paid his bills, but he lost his job, you know, and the job disappeared because of, you know, whatever upstream economic impact. But to see that impact, whew, that's hardcore stuff right there
Manny: Yes. If I had a soft spot it would get to be a little child saying you're taking their bed. It’s horrible! Oh, my gosh.
Steve: At least you didn't try to repossess the pet [laughing]. Manny, come on.
Manny: I know. So, that was it.
Steve: Well it's also fascinating to me that they transitioned you from finance or, you know, presumably some kind of sales position into a furniture moving repossession position.
Manny: Yes, the company, they were pretty desperate back then. That company ended up essentially almost folding and getting bought out by another company beneficially I think they were. But they were just trying to get as much money. I remember we'd have all of this stuff, and there was a lot of cool stuff, right, they're like ‘oh my god’, and we would sell it for pennies on the dollar, you know, just to try to recoup some of the…
Steve: It was definitely a different time that's for sure. That is a clear defining moment to kind of lead you down. And what was your first business that you ended up pursuing after that point?
Manny: So, after that, I decided to get into 3D animation. And I know now 3D animation people like ‘oh yes that's cool’. But back then, we are talking about 23 years ago, right, oh, no actually yes about 20-24 years ago. There was no real 3D animation. The commercials on TV were just starting to come out with some of the stuff. And I was really into that. There was a software that came out called Lightwave 3D 1.0, the very first one. And I decided to create a magazine around this. The magazine was by accident, I actually was creating tutorial videos on VHS, those cassettes that used to stick in, for those of you that are young enough not to know what they were.
Steve: Hashtag “google it”
Manny: Yes. We would create these things, and we were called Light Speeding, we were selling these things. And I'm like ‘you know, what if I can buy a list of people that are interested in animation and I can mail out to these, you know, not email out, but like direct mail and I can get them to try to buy these things?’ And I go, but, you know, would be cool, I just thought of the idea, I'm like ‘what if I contact some of the people that sell in the space and see if they're willing to, you know, split the cost with me and they can put their ad in there and then, after I got like two or three people that said yes we'll do that’. I'm like, you know what, I don't want people to just throw this flyer away so I'll maybe put an article in there and make it kind of cool that way they'll hold on to it. And then I was like ‘well, now I have enough advertisers that I can put another article in there’. And before I knew it I had like a 50 something page magazine. And I'm like ‘well, I'm going to put a glossy cover on it, learn how to do the whole thing.’ Came out with issue number one of a magazine called Light Waving. And it became super popular in that space. And within a year I had one of my original advertisers from the very first episode said ‘hey, are you interested in selling this?’ I'm like ‘sure!’ I didn't know anything about business either. You know, it was crazy. And they're like ‘well, we'll give you 50 grand’ Like 50 grand. I'm like ‘oh, my god!’ I lived in this little podunk kind of terrible town, it was just bad. I'm like 50 grand will get me out of here, all right take me out to Southern California, to LA or to San Diego. And I sold it. 50 grand seemed like just a ginormous amount of money at the time. And that's what I did.
20:00 (Steve emphasizes the importance of collaboration in entrepreneurship.)
Steve: I love it! Oh boy, what a secure this route that you took, right? I'm going do this one thing and then it turns into the next thing… And I love the idea, by the way, for Awesomers out there listening, take note of the fact that he's like ‘I got this idea on how to send this thing out to people and it could be good but who can I get to share the cost with me?’ right. That collaboration is a common move people still do today. And whether you think about it as partners or affiliates or collaborators whatever it is. Being able to go to different people and say ‘hey, here's an idea I can do this part you do that part and let's, you know, split the cost, share the benefit, whatever the case may be. So, you are definitely ahead of yourself pioneer for sure.
Manny: Yes. And I didn't want them to throw away my head. I'm like ‘man, if they look at it every single day’, you know. Companies will give you, go to conferences and you get pens and you get stuff because their brands on it, they hope that you look at this thing every single day. I'm like ‘I have my ad, I don't want them to throw it away, and if there's a cool article or if it's a newsletter and then a Mitchell a magazine, they're not going to throw it away, they're going to keep it’. So, and it worked. You know, and we not only sold magazines, but we sold the videos later. It was a DVD or CD-ROMs for your computer and then. What else did we do? Oh, we also published I think the first two or three books for that space. So it's pretty cool
21:14 (Steve talks about the importance of adding value to the product)
Steve: Nice! You know, again to me the tangible piece of being able to say, ‘you know, we're going to do this.’ But you made a product worth having, right? That's the point, right? Too often marketeers, all of us, are guilty of this on some level at some time. We're like ‘I just need to get an ad up or I need to get a product down’, and we don't actually take the time to go ‘will people care about this? will they throw it away?’ In your case write an ad showing up in the mail that goes in the garbage pretty quick but building the value around it and all. Anybody who sells physical products digital products, doesn't matter, there are lessons to be had there make your product worth having for goodness sake.
Manny: Absolutely, yes!
Steve: So, that's an amazing little twist on a magazine career there. How about give me a lesson so from, you know, kind of way back to the beginning now? Is there a big lesson that stands out in your mind that you say, ‘you know, this one either hurt’, or ‘this one was really good’ or, you know, but just some lesson you could share with the Awesomers out there?
22:12 (Manny shares a lesson on what is important for entrepreneurs, the importance of building a team and hiring people)
Manny: A lesson? There are so many different things. I would say the biggest thing, and this is more recent because I was kind of like just I did things very solo for a while. My brother ended up joining me early on in my entrepreneurship businesses, I guess, that I had. But I've realized that a team is one of those as soon as I started hiring people and getting teams together. The lightbulbs will go off the aha moment, like ‘oh my god! I can do 10 times more than I was doing!’ And it's hard, right, as a business owner you're so nitpicky about every little detail that you're like ‘nobody can do it as well as I can. I know what I need to do’. And you have to give up some of that control in order to grow, and I think that was probably one of my defining moments what I heard, I don't remember who it was, I probably read it and I've heard people on stage say it and whatever it is, they're like ‘you've got to have teams. You’ve got to have, you know, a structure in place, and you’ve got to be working on your business, not in your business’. And I think that was for me the biggest eye-opener.
Steve: Yes, boy! I could tell you that that lesson if people should be taking special note of it, because, you know, fundamentally a lot of people get in their mind that, you know, ‘I'm the best at this, I'm the best at that’. And even if that's true, you're not scalable as an individual. And usually, by the way, it's not true. There's always somebody better at a particular skill than you. And, you know, that's been true know many businesses I've had including businesses have passed 500 employees it always scales faster when you have a good team. Now that doesn't mean we don't make mis-hires, right? I'm sure you know if you've had any staff of any time there's hires that we made the original mistake or maybe they compounded by not being that great of a worker but those things happen as a part and parcel to hiring teams have you faced any of that kind of a challenge?
Manny: Oh my gosh, yes! We've hired so many bad people over the years. I've had people that I trusted completely, they end up stabbing you in the back. The only lawsuits that I've had from owning a company have been from people that work at my company and it's, of course, it comes to the company because of their employees. I've had some really bad stuff. The other thing, it’s hard, I mean at least my standards, and I think this kind of a lot of entrepreneurs are going to have this. We work so hard, we grind so much that our standards are very high. So, when you see somebody punching the clock at five o'clock like not even 5:00 when they're already out the door. You like ‘have you been watching the clock the whole time? you are that bored that you have to look at the clock?’ Because I'm one of those guys where I'm like ‘2 o'clock, I'm like, okay, maybe I should take a lunch is it noon yet?’. I'm like ‘oh my god it's like 2:30’, you know, time is flying because you're working so much. But there's always going to be bad people, but you know if you hired three awesome people for every one bad person you just have to you know just get rid of them move on and it's not that big of a deal, right.
25:03 (Steve talks about the correlation between scalability and a team.)
Steve: Well this is the this is the primary lesson is teams are the ultimate secret to scale, right? You can have a strategy you can have systems but to scale, you have to have the team implement those systems and without it you it's just not scalable. And I'm sure that there's plenty of people out there they'll give me ‘well this one guy I knew he started a company, sold it for a billion dollars it was just him and his cat’ and fine I'll say that's the exception that proves the rule. Most companies are not run by solopreneurs and cats, often they have teams.
Manny: And you can outsource so easily now, now that everybody's connected globally. You know, go to onlinejobs.ph or something like that and hire. That's where we hire almost all of our support teams. You can get people there for you know under a thousand bucks a month. That is just awesome way better than us at doing those jobs, right? You can go to Upwork you know, it used to be oDesk. I've got like 50,000 hours logged on oDesk or Upwork now. It's just the beginning, right? I mean yes there's no reason to not have good teams now.
Steve: Well, and especially because you don't have to hire people full time. We have many examples and in the show-notes, we'll put some links into some of our favorite resources. But many examples of just going ‘you know what? We need this type of role for ten hours a week and we need that type of role for 20 hours a week’. And then as it grows you can you can grow those roles, but it truly is the salad days for what you know hiring people because it's global and you can find experts, as you said, far more qualified for certain tasks and certain measures, and they are offshore, than we would do ourselves. I know that's true, at one time I had an office in the Philippines we had over a hundred people, for a past company. And there are so many extraordinary people there. Really-really top performer. So that's very good lessons. How about this? So, it sounds like you've had a lot of the good stuff happening. Give me a time where, if one exists, where maybe you had an issue or challenge or something happened, where you said ‘maybe I should give up. Maybe this is not for me.’ Has that ever happen to you?
27:05 (Manny shares experiences of challenges and failures in entrepreneurship.)
Manny: Oh my gosh, yes! If you've been in business long enough, it has happened, right? There's always.. I've never met somebody, oh I mean, I guess there is going to be that unicorn entrepreneur where, just everything has always been awesome, right? If you look the most successful people in in the world, almost all of them had bankruptcies. They have had bad times. I have yes, I think whoa! Well, the one that really-really stands out, and it leads from the original story I told you. When I moved to San Diego, I bought a boat, a little boat. I'm like ‘man I'm by the beach’. I live nowhere close to the beach, I was hours away, ‘oh my 50 grand will last me forever’, right? No! it will last you about a year when you live in San Diego. So, I am running low, I am like ‘man I'm about four months out, I am going to start a new business!’ So I started a protein supplement company. And then I am like ‘Oh, the Internet’, I think this was like 98, I'm like ‘ there's this thing called the Internet, and people are getting on it. I like jokes, so I will create a little joke page. And I can send jokes on my friends and stuff’. And it started growing. I created this little referral thing and people started sending it, and I started getting these subscribers. Well, that was just for fun. The protein company ended up getting sued by the World Wrestling Federation like you know, Hulk Hogan guys, because I called my product, I think it was called Titan, Titan Sports something. And their company, their parent company is called Titan Sports. So, I was like ‘Man!’, so they came after me and they are like ‘you have got to stop’. So, I ended up having to, I had all this protein powder and all this stuff. And I just had to get rid of. So I lost. I had invested most of the remaining cash that I had into that. So, I was terrified. I had my truck repossessed. I had a vehicle. My truck got repossessed. I was already cutting a month and a half, two months late on my rent. I had eviction notices coming in. They were literally about to send people up to get me out of there forcibly. And it was right before that all happened, right before I was about to get evicted. I was talking to some guy. And I can't remember his name or how it happened. It was, somebody introduced me to him and he's like, ‘Hey! You have got this joke site. And you're getting like, several hundred people every single day, that are joining your joke site. Why don't you do something called co-registration?’ And I am like ‘I don't know. What is co-registration? I don't know what that means.’ For those of you that don't know what that means, it is basically when someone is signing up for something, there could be another little checkbox there and it gives a ‘hey would you also like to get the horoscope of the day?’ Or another checkbox next to that one says ‘would you like to learn how to lose weight?’ or whatever it is. And companies will pay you if you send them that email lead. This was back in the day when email was exciting. When it was exciting to actually get announcements when you got an email, like ‘YOU’VE GOT MAIL!’, and then like ‘Yes, I have got an email! Yahoo!”
Steve: ‘Today is the day, everybody! I have got one!’
Manny: Yes. So I was like, ‘Man, I can sell these for like 20 cents each, right?’ So, that day I suddenly, when I was getting let's say 500 signups, and I can make 10 cents off of each one because almost everybody checked it. I think we even left them pre-checked. I was like ‘Man!’, I am suddenly making like 50 bucks a day of this one. And then I had another one and then I started bringing up my price and pretty soon I went from making no money on this joke site that was just for fun just to turning it into a long, fast-forward a year or so, doing seven figures. But I remember going down getting that first check. And I was like, I think it was 1,500 bucks cashing it and running down and paying my rent the day before they were going to kick me out. So that was when I wanted to quit. I was already contemplating moving back with my folks. And it was bad, it was like ‘Don't give up, man! Just keep going!’
Steve: I love that! Again, so often, especially in this world we live in with Facebook and Instagram, all the shiny moments, it is all the, ‘Here I am at the Coliseum!’ or, ‘Here I am in New Yorker!’ everybody is out there winning. And, ‘Here I am, sitting here again with my cat, whiskers and we got nothing going for us’ But really it is not all the shiny moments. We all face these challenges. We've all been through these things. And your point about ‘Don't give up! Just keep going!’ is really-really important! Man, I love that story.
Manny: Yes, and that business, it was called twistedhumor.com, became the world's largest humor site at the time. It was humongous. And we leveraged all that traffic to build other businesses and other things that we were doing. And all of those came with problems. All of them had to say, I mean not that I was about to lose all my money, but it was like, maybe it was a problem legally, something happening on this side, or it might have been employees or… There are always problems, always headaches. You just have got to deal with them as you go.
Steve: Yes, and of course as you build experience over time you are like ‘Hey, last time I had this situation come up, I did this and I had a problem. So I am going to do something different, and maybe avoid that problem.’ And that just comes with experience and also with the relationship. Sharing best practices, as you do so often on the AM/PM Podcast, which I love.
Steve: So, let me ask you this. So, that was a time maybe where you wanted to give up, give me a time where you look to go ‘You know what? This was a pretty good day! This was a day I want to take a victory lap. I am proud to be involved with this day.’ Do you have one of those you could share with us?
Manny: Yes, I have a lot of those. So that's a great thing about having your own businesses. You are always going to have that. I guess, the very first one I remember – obviously, getting a finance job that I didn't expect out ever getting and suddenly I am making more money than I would have if I went to school. That was a good one. Having selling my business, my first business. That is always a big moment. 50 grand was insane. When I was in the mobile app business, I had an app that jumped to the number three overall best app, it was a free app, in the United States. And I didn't have it monetized very well. But even because it was number three on the charts it was making twenty thousand dollars a day. Which was insane money to me at the time. But, it could have been making like two hundred thousand if I knew what I was doing. But that was cool to be… have an app up there. Those are all wins. And I think as you progress in your business, things become kind of routine like ‘Oh that is normal’, like ‘Oh, man, you know, I would love to hit a hundred thousand dollar a month.’ Yes, I hit it and then ‘I like to generate a million dollars in sales.’ You hit that, starting a podcast. I have so many, I mean they're all… We try to celebrate all our victories here. I think if you spend the time to do that, for example in our office we have KPIs and we have charts and probably every week or every two weeks there is some victory. You can win at something. There are like 20 things going on. And we get people money and spin wheels and do fun activities and take the office out because I think you have got to, It is not always the grind in the work yes that you are putting in there, you have got to have fun and you got to celebrate. So, celebrate small things.
33:36 (Steve talks about the importance of celebrating wins.)
Steve: Boy I can't agree more. We used to have a forum we would call ‘The Wednesday weekly wins’. And we wanted to kind of encourage people to call out their win of the week because everybody gets one. Nobody sits around for a week without getting something done. And the bigger ones, that is when you do the team meals or whatever. And I think too often entrepreneurs, they don't take the victory lap. They are like ‘I you know a hashtag hustle I am, I have been told I have to just keep going.’ But take a minute, and take that victory lap. Not only is it good for you as the entrepreneur and the leader, but it is extraordinarily essential for your team. This is how they bond, this is how they put their DNA into the business. What do you think about that?
Manny: I absolutely agree, 100 percent.
Steve: Yes, the secret to having good people and nurturing a good team and having a culture that people care about, is to celebrate those victories together. And I think that's really smart, the way you are doing it.
Manny: Yes, it just bonds you together and, we try to do those activities. Even if it is taking everybody out to lunch, or hanging out for drinks, or going to the movies, or whatever it is, going rock climbing up, doing some charitable stuff, going out and actually giving to the community and helping people. With animals, with people, whatever. There are things you can do as a group that people remember. I still remember some of the most vivid memories I have of working at the finance company. It was not all the accolades and stuff. It was when we would go to charitable events. We were forced to go. Out manager like ‘We are going to this thing.’ And we are like ‘Man, it is on a weekend.’ We would go to these things, and they were awesome. Just helping all those people. The memories they are awesome. Love it.
Steve: Yes, that is again a very-very good lesson. To break the daily paradigm, you need to break the routine to keep the thing going. So before we take a break and then look to the future, maybe you could tell us what your favorite tool is to carry on your day-to-day schedule business lifestyle? Helium 10 seems like a pretty easy laydown one so I am going to set that one aside. Do you have a tool or an app or whatever that makes your life easier to live?
Manny: Netflix. When I go home and relax. [Laughing]. No, no.
Steve: I like that one, yes.
36:00 (Manny gives an advice on tools and apps he uses)
Manny: I would say at work, the tool that I probably use the most is, oh man we use so many different things, I would say Monday. Are you familiar with that tool?
Steve: I am, yes.
Manny: Yes, so we use Monday and it's just to keep the teams together with everything, keep everything organized. It works really good. I don't use it daily, the Media Silo, because we do a lot of videos a lot of content and training and stuff. Media Silo, keeps all of that stuff super organized. If you do any kind of video and audio it is awesome. I don't want, it is not a pitch for that stuff, but check it out, because it is pretty cool.
Steve: That is good to know. This one, I am going to check out myself. Media Silo that is. And, at some point, we will compare Netflix. One of my favorites I will give you this one before we go to break. The Assets, you can find it on Netflix. It is a miniseries about this famous spy, Aldrich Ames. And if anybody likes suspense, if anybody likes mystery or history, this one is for you. We would take that in the bank. I will be right back after a quick word, pay some bills, and then talk about the future.
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Steve: Okay here we are back again. Manny Coats is telling us the way it is. And we are learning so much and having a great time. But we are going now to get out the proverbial crystal ball and look to the future. And maybe you can give us a sense of either where you will be or where your companies will be? Maybe just the world at large. What that looks like five years from now?
Manny: Man, five years ago. Only five years from now.
Steve: Yes, let's go forward. Back to the future
37:50 (Manny shares his plans for the future.)
Manny: I think, in five years I am going to be just cresting fifty years of age. I always told myself that at 50 years of age I would like to be officially done. I want to be retired. If I don’t ever want to work or anything, I don't have to. And I feel like I am at that point now. But I want to keep doing stuff. But it would be nice. I haven't actually sat down, Steve, to read books for fun. Seems like everything I read is like ‘Oh, here is a business book/ This is going to help me.’ I would like to just read something goofy or whatever. Just not have to worry about waking up at a certain time. So that would be pretty cool. But knowing myself, I don't think that is going to happen. I think what is going to happen is: I will exit this current company, and I will take a portion of those funds. Will probably start something else up, maybe two or three things, if I know myself. But what I will try to do is, I will do better at creating the teams initially, so that I don't have to be there 40 hours a week. It would be more of a part-time capacity on my side. I think that is probably what is going to happen. But, in five years I am going to be enjoying all the craziness going to be going. In five years from now, we are going to have autonomous vehicles. You don't have to drive anywhere. Car ownership is going to be falling because you are not going to need vehicles. Augmented reality, virtual reality is going to be crazy. Amazon will probably own just about everything out there. You will put on your Oculus glasses of some kind, and be able to buy things wherever you are at.
Steve: Drones, or whatever they need to. Yes, it is going to be a very interesting time. I definitely think your vision about the next iteration of whatever company or companies that you build. Where you build it to where you could be an optional component instead of a required component. It doesn't mean that you're not delivering the vision, it doesn't mean that you're not critical to the organization from the backbone of it. But ultimately the day-to-day circulation needs to continue whether you're checked in or checked out. That is something that you do get experienced with as you build companies. To make it less reliant on you day-to-day on day one. And more, you are willing to invest more to build that team upfront. I think that's an important step.
Manny: Yes, I agree.
Steve: And you're anything like me. Retirement sucks!
Steve: I tried to retire around 2012. And I had the life anybody dream of, multiple cruises, and beach vacations. The reality is my friends couldn't come out and play with me enough because they didn't have a fully free lifestyle. My girlfriend, my kids got sick of being on vacation and I ended up being miserable. And then I would feel guilty, because I was miserable because I lived a dream life. And so that little shame spiral, I don't recommend it. So, in whatever way you choose to be plugged in, you're on the right track in my opinion. To build stuff that you care about and that you can make a difference doing, and feel fulfilled by that. But be able to check in and check out anytime you want. That lifestyle really is something aspirational.
Manny: Yes. I might come full circle. I started with 3D animation, then got into the business side of stuff. But now I'm really-really loving the whole augmented reality and virtual reality stuff. So, I might end up back in that space. We actually have the camera, can't see it. In our office, we have two simulators, essentially. So, people can put their headgear on and be in whatever world they want to. I just love that stuff. So maybe I'll end up back there.
Steve: Look at that! Word on the street, Disney! Manny Coats is coming for Pixar. Watch it.
Manny: Different things.
Steve: Augmented reality movies with Manny Coats, I like that.
Manny: Have you tried one? Have you put on a headset yet?
Steve: Oh yes, of course. Listen I'm a nerd from way back. Man, I had the original virtual reality thing to that you go to the arcade and you look around. You couldn't really do anything. Sometimes you get one gun and that didn't shoot straight. But you could just look around and that was amazing. To have that technology now brought into either the phone or the home or whatever it's really an extraordinary time we live in.
Manny: It is insane, that they now have a one, I just bought one. It's like 200 bucks I called an Oculus Go. And you can plug in your Netflix into it. Because we were talking about Netflix. And you could be anywhere. You could be on a plane, you could be in a… It doesn't require a computer, it's all set. And, you're in a living room, with an eight-foot screen in front of you watching your Netflix movie on it while you're sitting on a plane. It's cool, it's a cool thing.
Steve: The name of that again, is Oculus Rift?
Manny: No, Oculus Rift is an expensive one that needs a computer. It's called an Oculus Go.
Steve: Oculus Go.
Manny: And, I think, it's like 200 or 300 bucks. And, use your phone to download all the stuff and once it's downloaded you just put it in your suitcase or your carry-on bag. And you can be doing whatever you want. You can play games, watch movies, all kinds of stuff.
Steve: Alright, we're going to make sure, we get that in the show notes because I have got to get me one.
Steve: Definitely. I love that kind of stuff. It really is fun to play with.
Steve: So, tell us how do we find you, your businesses online? What's the best place to go?
Manny: My primary business is Helium 10, now. So helium10.com is our website, you can contact us there. If you want to actually reach and talk to me in our community, we've got a Facebook group called the FBA High Rollers, about 45,000 members at the time of this podcast, right now. And you can get there just by going to our podcast site which is a ampmpodcast.com/facebook. And, yes that's probably the best way. I'm active in that community all the time.
Steve: Yes, you surely are. And I think that's, we'll make sure we get that in the show notes, everybody so don't worry. If you didn't get it down you can go to the page we'll announce at the end and get all that those details done. So, Manny, of course, I've always enjoyed talking to you, and I always learn a lot. I love some of the stories, I love your sense of humor, it's hilarious. But now that we're near the end, it's time to really dive deep and come up with some words of wisdom for the Awesomers out there listening at home.
43:34 (Manny shares his words of wisdom to Awesomers.)
Manny: Words of wisdom! Alright, let me see. First of all, always surround yourself with awesome people. Awesomer people. Cut out the people that complain all the time, the bad seeds. They are going to rub off on you, okay. You don't want that. Hire people that are smarter than you. Okay? That's what you want. Okay? And then, I would say, the final good one would be, put a value on your time on your hourly. What's your hourly rate? Is it one dollar an hour? Or a thousand dollars an hour? And then, anything that you're doing on a day-to-day basis, just write it all down. If you're finding yourself at $500 an hour and it doesn’t qualify as a $500 an hour task - outsource it. Free up your time, so that you can work on your business and expand. Yes, those would be the things I talked about.
Steve: Boy, such good advice. And, really, the last one, in particular, I like to dive in on because so often I talk to entrepreneurs around the globe. And that's one of the things I love, that's my passion. Is hanging out with entrepreneurs. Really, actually, that was my solution to being depressed after trying to retire by the way. Because I have got to go to hang out with people who are fun and cool. And then that's more exciting to me. And it really changed the way I get to live. But when you have that opportunity to bring in the good people around you as you talked about, and then give them the opportunity to carry the ball farther for you, I think that's a really important thing, and I hope everybody at home is taking very-very careful notes. These are definitely things you should act on. Manny, thank you again for coming online. It's really great to see. Everybody, don't hesitate to check the show notes. Make sure you're subscribed to the AM/PM Podcast, it's very well worth the listen. You'll be glad you did. And thank you again, Manny.
Manny: Thank you for having me, appreciate it. I will be going, guys.
Steve: Alright, and we'll be back right after this.
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45:48 (Steve is wrapping up the episode.)
Steve: Well, I always love hanging out with Manny. He's a fun guy. It was a little dicey there for a moment when we were deciding who was going to go shirts and skins. But luckily we always kept our shirts on. But, nevertheless, Manny's origin story and how he's gotten started and how he's helped out people. It's just something that should absolutely be admired and respected. And don't forget to go to the Awesomers.com/19 web page. That's a special webpage, that we've set up. And you'll be able to find all of the notes, including some nice access and discounted access to the programs that we've discussed here. Now, remember, I don't take personal affiliate commission or anything like that. I never have. All of the efforts related to this podcast go to the Empowery nonprofit member-owned cooperative. So, any of the efforts, discounts, promotions or other things, those are all to the benefit of the Empowery cooperative.
Well, we've done it again, everybody. We have another episode of the Awesomers podcast ready for the World. Thank you for joining us. And we hope that you've enjoyed a program today. Now it's a good time to take a moment to subscribe, like and share this podcast. Heck, you can even leave a review if you want it. Awesomers around you will appreciate your help. It's only with your participation and sharing that we'll be able to achieve our goals. Our success is literally in your hands. Thank you again for joining us. We are at your service. Find out more about me, Steve Simonson, our guest team, and all the other Awsomers involved at Awesomers.com. Thank you again.